May 7, 1927 – Nov 6, 2020
Keith Lee Kraft, age 93, a long time Park Rapids, MN resident, peacefully passed into eternal life on November 6, 2020 at Heritage Care Center in Park Rapids. For decades, until 1989, he was the presiding Judge in Hubbard, Cass, and Itasca Counties. But his family will remember him best for his good nature, sense of humor, twinkly blue eyes, infectious laugh, and his love of eating fresh walleye.
Keith was born on May 7, 1927 in Hampton, Iowa, to Raymond and Florence (Knox) Kraft. On the day following his 1945 High School graduation ceremony from Ankeny High School in Iowa, he boarded a train headed for the Paris Island Marine Corps Base in South Carolina, where he completed his basic training. After receiving his honorable discharge from the Marines, Keith attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and received his BA degree in 1950.
Keith’s marriage to Mary Ann began in 1949, and was blessed with four daughters: Dianne, Liah, Katherine and Terra. Throughout his life, he enjoyed house building, boat building, sailing, skiing, deer hunting, golfing, camping, and traveling with his family. Keith was also a member of St. Peter The Apostle Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, and Star of The North Marine Corps League. In 1981, Mary Ann passed away from cancer.
In 1951, Keith and his family moved to Park Rapids, MN, to be in lake country, and to be closer to his parents who had bought Happiness Resort in Walker. He taught business and social studies at Park Rapids High School until March 1, 1955, when he was selected by then-Governor Orville Freeman to serve as Hubbard County Judge. Keith learned that he had been selected as the new Probate Judge by reading it in the newspaper. At that time, he became the youngest sitting Judge serving in the United States. His career, first as a County Judge and then as a District Judge, spanned over 34 years. During his years as a judge, he also served in the Minnesota National Guard, retiring as a Major, after 36 total years in the military. During those years, he was chosen for special military training and service at Ft. Lee, Virginia and at the Pentagon in Washington, DC.
In 1985, Keith was united in marriage to Margaret Ann Skoe on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. After retiring from the bench, Keith enjoyed winters in Florida for twenty years with Margaret.
He will be lovingly remembered by his wife, Margaret, of Park Rapids; his four daughters: Dianne (Robert) Barry of Ft. Myers, FL, Liah (Jon David Alexander) Kraft-Kristaine of Eatonton, GA, Katherine Kraft of Ft. Worth, TX, and Terra Kraft Waters of St. Cloud, MN; five step-children: Kathy (Jim) Tande and Sue (Dave) Harsha all of Park Rapids, Nancy (Kurt Heinritz) Skoe of Pottstown, PA, Doug (Teresa) Skoe of Montrose, CO, and Steve (Anne) Skoe of Sartell, MN; twenty grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren; as well as other relatives and many friends. He is also survived by his second wife, Lorelei Mickelson. Keith was preceded in death by his first wife, Mary Ann, his parents, one brother, Kenneth, and one sister, Karyl Linda.
A memorial service for him will be held in late summer, 2021, in Park Rapids, Minnesota. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Star of the North Marine Corps League by mailing to the Jones-Pearson Funeral Home. The full obituary is online at jonespearson.com.